Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 36 Number 2 2019 pp. 450-477

Acting Like Humans? Anthropomorphism and Consumer’s Willingness to Pay in Electronic Commerce

Yuan, Lingyao (Ivy) and Dennis, Alan R


Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to a non-human object. Past research shows that anthropomorphism changes how we perceive objects (e.g., believing them to be more attractive). Does this mean we would be willing to pay more for them? We examined whether displaying a product in an anthropomorphized form influenced how much a consumer was willing to pay. We examined two design aspects, visual (i.e., a face) and auditory (e.g., a voice), in the context of an online auction, and proposed three theoretical routes by which an anthropomorphic product display might affect willingness to pay (emotional, product attachment, and product quality). Results show that adding visual anthropomorphizing features to the way a product was displayed increased the amount bid by 7 percent, but adding auditory anthropomorphizing features had no effect. The visual anthropomorphizing features increased product attachment but had no effect on emotions or perceptions of product quality. Therefore, we conclude that anthropomorphizing the way a product is displayed increases willingness to pay primarily through the theoretical route of creating attachment to the product. There is an additional, as yet undiscovered, theoretical route through which anthropomorphism influences willingness to pay. The results also suggest that the conventional wisdom that the combination of visual and auditory design features is best for triggering anthropomorphism is not always true.

Key words and phrases: : anthropomorphism, online auction, willingness to pay, product attachment